Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Zach Lewis embracing role as sixth man for UMass men’s basketball

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 Katherine Mayo/Collegian

Katherine Mayo/Collegian

Toward the middle of last year, Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Derek Kellogg decided to remove the struggling Jabarie Hinds from the starting lineup and play him off the bench. Hinds went on to have some of his best games of the season, serving him and UMass well in that role.

With Hinds graduated, Kellogg early on appears to be handing the role of sixth man over to redshirt junior Zach Lewis. Much like Hinds, Lewis has found his fair share of success.

In the season opener against UMass Lowell, Lewis played 22 minutes and tallied eight points. Last Friday’s game against the River Hawks was his first game as a Minuteman after transferring from Canisius College prior to the 2015-16 season.

“I mean the first game I was real excited to just get back on the court, where I think I settled in more in the second game against Ole Miss,” Lewis said. “It definitely feels good to get those games out of the way.”

Against Mississippi, Lewis’ 32 minutes on the court led all Minutemen. The guard finished the game with 20 points, 12 of which came from beyond the 3-point line.

Kellogg sees Lewis filling the role throughout the season.

“He had 18 points in the first half,” Kellogg said. “He came off the bench and gave us a huge spark. I kind of joke with him and call him Vinny Johnson ‘the microwave,’ and they look at me like I’m 85 years old.”

“But I think he can do that for us. It’s nice to have some fire power coming off the bench, he just has to get a little better defensively and be a little bit more physical on the defensive back boards.”

Lewis’ only rebound of the season so far has come on the offensive side of the ball against the Rebels. The Minutemen allowed 17 second chance points in their 90-88 loss to Ole Miss.

In two seasons at Canisius, Lewis started 52 games and averaged 11 points per game. Though he is not starting with UMass, he is still embracing his new role.

“I’m willing to do whatever the team needs me to do to win honestly,” Lewis said. “So if that’s what coach Kellogg wants me to do that’s what I’m going to do.”

As far as competing to be a starter goes, Lewis said that competition has gone on since the summer. Now that the season has begun, winning games is more of a priority than winning a starting job.

With that said, Lewis still believes that he has to prove himself.

“Definitely I mean as far as last year, I thought stepping in I had to prove myself and that’s what I’m going to continue to do,” Lewis. “I always feel like I have to prove myself not only to the team but to the conference and to everybody that’s watching.”

Though he is not a starter and has only been with the team for about a year, Lewis still believes he has a responsibility to help lead such a young group of players.

“Yeah definitely, not only vocally but I think with my actions on and off the court as far as what I’m doing as a person,” Lewis said. “Just showing them how to be an athlete and a student off the court.”

The Minutemen will need to continue to be aggressive when they host Temple Thursday night.

The Owls (1-2) visit coming off of a 57-52 loss to New Hampshire and, like the Minutemen, will want to make up for a distasteful loss.

“Really how aggressive we came at them,” Lewis said of his team’s performance on Monday. “I mean Ole Miss is a really good team in the SEC so this shows that we played them tough for about 38 to 39 minutes of the game so it shows how good we can be, and we just have to build off of that.”

Philip Sanzo can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.

About the Writer
Philip Sanzo, Sports Editor
UMass’s depth and St. Joseph’s high scorer means Friday’s semifinal has potential for a possible shootout.
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